House Democrats are forging ahead with a new plan to put constraints on presidential powers and protect previous norms that lawmakers say were violated throughout former President Donald Trump’s tenure.
On Tuesday, Congressman Adam Schiff, D-Calif, led a group of lawmakers in introducing the Protecting Our Democracy Act which compiles several bills to address abuses of presidential power. Taken together, the bill includes provisions that include limiting a president’s ability to fire inspector generals without cause, to offer or bestow pardons in situations that raise suspicion of corruption or retaliate against agency whistleblowers among others.
Schiff, who was a target of Trump’s personal attacks throughout his presidency, said on Twitter that “democracy is the founding ideal of our nation” and warned that it “is in grave danger” if it is not protected by his proposal. He told the New York Times in an interview that Trump’s repeated disregard for presidential norms when in office “has put our republic on a very tenuous footing.”
Democracy is the defining ideal of our nation. Our lifeblood.But right now, that sacred legacy is in grave danger.So, we must take aggressive action to defend it.We must pass the #ProtectingOurDemocracyAct.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) September 21, 2021
“Our democracy turns out to be much more fragile than we understood, and this is an effort to put into law that which we thought was already mandatory,” Schiff told the Times.
During the Trump administration, Democrats and some Republicans were outraged by what they saw as his flagrant disrespect for the traditions of the White House. The Protecting Our Democracy Act is in many regards a chronicle and a rebuke of Trump’s abuses, and a means to constrain any future officeholders from taking advantage of the vast powers bestowed to a president.
President Joe Biden, who defeated Trump in November 2020, has made it a point to repeatedly invoke the need to safeguard American democracy and has promised to help a more ethical, transparent administration than his predecessor. According to the Times, aides to Biden were involved in conversations about the draft bill and each side was able to push back on measures they disagreed with.
For example, the Biden team convinced the lawmakers to drop a proposal to make the White House to give Congress its internal communications with the president about pardons over executive privilege concerns. They also expressed concern about a proposal to speed up court review of congressional lawsuits over subpoenas, but lawmakers changed it so that Congress had to demonstrate “good-faith efforts” to find a compromise.
In turn, the administration failed to strike down a section that required the Justice Department to turn over its investigative files about clemency recipients or to reduce Congress’ say on the firing of inspector generals.
If passed in the House, the bill would go to the Senate where it would require the support of at least 10 Republicans in the evenly divided chamber. Some Republicans have supported certain provisions in the past, but it is not known whether enough would support the entire package lest it is seen as an endorsement against the still popular Trump.
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